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[August 5th] -- A little of this and a little of that from your Nationals' reporter here in Idaho ....

- How scared must John Lannan be as he prepares to face not just Barry Bonds tonight, but pretty much every news outlet and reporter in the United States. Remember, this is a kid who pitched poorly last year for Savannah and started 2007 playing for class 'A' Potomac. Suddenly, a few months later, he's facing the most prolific home run hitter in baseball history in San Francisco rather than staying in a Motel 6 in Wilmington or Kinston as he prepares to face some other kid he's never heard of. My fear is that the Bonds' circus is going to take away from his game. Another good outing might cement his place in the rotation for the rest of the year. A bad one - a really bad one - and the whispers of "too many promotions too quickly" might again surface. Good luck, little buddy.

- I was beginning to worry that I was wrong about Ryan Zimmerman, that perhaps he wasn't destined to be a star after all. The errors, the strikeouts, the return to flailing at outside pitches, might all indicate a regression on his part. Now, after three straight three-hit games, he's hitting .274 and is on pace to hit .274-25-90 this year. How good will he be? I really think that next year will bring a blossoming of talent for Zimmerman; something on the order of .300-30-120 with gold-glove defense. I'm not going to worry about the kid again.

- Cole Kimball, the "worst" starting pitcher for the Vermont Lake Monsters, showed last night that he too is becoming a real pitching prospect. He pitched 6 shutout innings and lowered his ERA to 3.67, really good in most situations but downright pedestrian compared to the combined 2.05 ERA of his fellow Lake Monster starters. Five starters, five true prospects. Amazing.

- I feel bad for Jerome Williams, who was released yesterday. I remember him telling a reporter during spring training how important it was for him to succeed with the Nats so he could support his wife and children. He pitched poorly For the Nationals, and was even worse for Harrisburg. Though I agree with the move from a talent standpoint, I nonetheless feel for a fellow father trying to do right by his family.

- So we all know that the Nationals' payroll will be bumped in 2008. The question is, will it be a nudge or an explosion? What do you think? I'm fairly certain that we're going to see an increase from about $40 million to roughly $70 million or so next year. And if that happens, how is that money best spent? $30 million can buy the team four above-average players, three very good ones or - perhaps - two super-studs.

The Nationals are set in the infield for 2008. The team has two all-star caliber first-baseman, a future all-star at third, and three solid starters (Guzman, Belliard and Lopez) to fill two positions. Schneider and Jesus Flores are a good pair behind the plate. Austin Kearns is set in right. That leaves two positions, center and right, that need help. Maybe. If the Nats can land a top-flight center-fielder, then Ryan Church and his close-enough offense will be good enough in 2008. Church can be counted on to hit something like .270-15-65 in the newer, smaller park next year, and there is nothing wrong with that type of production coming from the six-hole. If the team spends $15 million a year for a center-fielder (which is way too much), they would still have $15 million left for pitching.

The bullpen, perhaps the best in the league, is set. That means that only the starting pitching staff in need of help. Assuming that John Patterson is out of the picture, the team has many solid arms from which to choose:

- Tim Redding, Joel Hanrahan, Matt Chico, Mike Bacsik, Jason Bergman, Shawn Hill, John Lannan and Ross Detweiler all have an opportunity to be in the rotation. So will the Nats spend a few million on a proven starter? Someone like ... say ... Livan Hernandez? Hard to say. It wouldn't be a bad idea to bring in someone older and more mature to man a spot in the rotation. Though Livan certainly wouldn't be much more than a .500 pitcher at this stage in his career, he could be a father figure to the baby Nats in the rotation.

This winter will be the most exciting we've ever seen since baseball returned to D.C. Just a couple of moves could make this year's overachieving team a contender next year.

Here's hoping, anyway.

Zimmerman still has a lot to learn and well get better although it probably won't stop some stupid fan from crying about how we took the wrong 3B in the draft and Ryan Braun is a million times better.

I expect him to breakout with power once we ditch RFK.

Don't you think that Jesus Flores will be sent down to AAA or AA next year so he can play everyday, rather than playing only once or twice a week behind Schneider (which he has to do this year because of his Rule 5 status)?
I think we have more than enough here to make a decent rotation; heres the way I think it should be set:

Shawn Hill
Joel Hanrahan
Matt Chico
John Lannan
Ross Detweiler

And we could also mess around with Balester (misspelled), Jason Bergman(bullpen next year) and Tim Redding if some one gets hurt.

Now with that said, I think we should spend all that money on offense to. We need some one with power, who drives in runs and can protect Zimm....So I say get moth Dunn and Jones. Now I know you might think Im crazy, but considering that the payroll might even increase to the 80 million range and that Jones is having a down year, it could happen. But if I had to chose between one I would say Dunn, because he's younger and he can hit it out of any park in the bigs; I nkow that means a lot of strike outs, but we need his power to make this line up a real threat.

great post as allways Farid.
Jesus Flores HAS to be sent down next year. He has shown talent, and at times, brilliance on the diamond. But without getting the chance to play everyday, he'll remain nothing more than a prospect and not a proven player.

The guy has the potential to equal Schneider's defense while becoming the best offensive catcher Washington's ever had (though if you were my age, you'd know that wouldn't be all that difficult to do.)

natsfan, I'm with you on Dunn, but Andruw scares me a bit. The two combined will cost the team $30 million, the entire payroll increase. I'd take Dunn for the same reason you say, but if the team goes after a prominent CF, I'd vote for Torii Hunter.
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